On Way to Review PMGSY Project, Deputy Commissioner 'Honoured' with Palanquin Ride by Mizoram Villagers
When asked if the officer felt like a British era collector on the palanquin, Bhupesh Chaudhary said it was a warm gesture by the villagers - a reminder of the faith and expectations people have from government servants.
Deputy commissioner Bhupesh Chaudhary being taken on a palanquin by villagers of Tisopi. (News18)
Guwahati: Villagers lined an entire stretch of the remote Tisopi village in Mizoram when a palanquin carrying the deputy commissioner of Siaha district passed through. A group of locals lifted Bhupesh Chaudhary in the palanquin made of wood and cloth and paraded him for a kilometre in ‘Maraland’ — Siaha is the headquarters of the Mara Autonomous District Council.
This unusual welcome was accorded to the civil servant during his visit to review the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) project. It was raining and children who had gathered on the occasion greeted the officer warmly.
“I decided to visit Tisopi when villagers came to my office and complained about the connectivity problems they face. As there is already an on-going PMGSY project for about 15 kilometre (under construction), we decided to trek the entire route to understand the progress of the project and the difficulties faced by the villagers every day,” said Chaudhary, adding that it was a ‘pleasant surprise’ to find a palanquin waiting for him at the end of the trek.
“It was truly an honour that can’t be explained in words. Our team had trekked almost 15km to reach the village. I was completely overwhelmed with the warm reception accorded to me by the people of Tisopi.”
The ‘Palan Queen’, as the British called it, was a luxurious means of travel in old times. When asked if the officer felt like a British-era collector on the palanquin, Chaudhary said it was a warm gesture by the villagers — a reminder of the faith and expectations people have from government servants.
“I think it’s very different from the British times when they would hire people to carry them. People had to do it under fear or for the want of meagre wages. We had an option to reach Tisopi using the longer route by vehicles, but we chose to trek to understand first-hand the problems of the villagers and contractors. I was truly touched by the gesture. Tribal culture is very straightforward — had I not sat on the palanquin, they would have been offended.”
The new road to Tisopi is something villagers have been waiting for long. While they now have to travel for almost three hours from Lawngtlai district, embarking on a longer, circuitous route to reach the village, the upcoming road is expected to reduce the travel time to just 30 mins.
“The project covering 15km is divided into five segments and work has already started on three of them. For the other two segments, we are expecting to start work in the coming season. However, there are challenges to overcome — availability of construction material and adequate labour, delays due to prolonged monsoon and problem with contractors who leave the job midway are some of the issues,” said Chaudhary.
In Mizoram, because of a weak government transportation system, the private Tata Sumo service is one of the primary modes of public transport in the state. The fare for a 10-seater vehicle from Siaha to the capital city of Aizawl, located at a distance of about 300km, is Rs 17,000.
“The private sumo service to Tisopi is limited because of the longer travel route through Lawngtlai. However, with the completion of the road, it is expected that the route will become shorter, and profitable for private Sumo operators,” the bureaucrat remarked.
The officer also visited the Tisopi Turmeric Processing Centre that had won the Prime Minister’s award under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY). Among 89 households in the village, 30 families had taken up turmeric cultivation, but according to Bhupesh Chaudhary, the award has not proved beneficial for the self-help group (SHG) involved in the mission.
“The PM’s award did not bring any tangible benefit to the SHG involved and its members feel demotivated,” said Chaudhary, while also raising concern on the Anganwadi Centre in Tisopi that does not have basic infrastructure.
The deputy commissioner was all praise for the youth in his district, considered the ‘last Indian district in the northeast’.
“In Siaha, they have a district wide network of Mara Thyutlia Py. Another youth organisation is the Mara Student Organisation — the district administration tries to involve them in community building through various schemes. In fact, the Mara community is so strong that they can teach other states a lesson,” said Chaudhary, who described his visit to Tisopi as “an opportunity to connect with nature despite encountering many leeches”.
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